Nearly two months after a recording surfaced containing racist remarks from former Los Angeles City Council President Nury Martinez, Los Angeles Labor Federation president, Ron Herrera, outgoing councilmember Gil Cedillo and councilmember Kevin de Leon, community pressure to hold the entire group accountable continues, including calls for de León to step down.
De León is the only person still on the council who participated in the closed-door conversation held in October, 2021, which was surreptitiously recorded and released to the media. He continues to hold his political position as a council member for District 14. Since then, ongoing efforts calling for his resignation from LA residents, community organizers and even President Joe Biden have continued.
One of these ongoing efforts to push him to step down turned into a physical confrontation last Friday, December 9, at a toy giveaway and Christmas tree lighting event in Lincoln Heights.
The next day, the Los Angeles Police Department reported that officers responded to “a large fight” at 6:30 p.m. on Friday. The fight, which is under investigation, was between de León and a community activist identified as Jason Reedy.
“A group of so-called ‘activists’- who have been harassing my staff and me for more than a year- cornered and physically assaulted me…” de León said in a statement released on Saturday. In the same statement, de León claims Reedy and his accomplices blocked all available exits and while efforting to get out Reedy “launched a pelvic thrust, followed by a headbutt” to his forehead. “My response, in defense of myself, was to push him off me.”
But a video released on Twitter from J-TOWN Action and Solidarity, a grassroots collective dedicated to revolutionary organizing and mutual aid in Little Tokyo, that captured a portion of the incident between de León and Reedy, shows an alternative unfolding of events.
Wearing a red-and-white Santa Claus hat, de Leòn appears to push Reedy onto a table, as Reedy’s hands are up in the air, and then pushing him off that same table followed by a continuous struggle onto the floor.
Steven Chun, an organizer with J-Town Action and Solidarity told CALÓ NEWS that he was at the event and saw the incident unfold. He claims that this is not the first time de León assaulted Reedy. He said J-Town Action and Solidarity went to the event with Reedy to hold de León accountable for his racist and fascist policies.
“As we approached him and demanded that he resign, we were all assaulted by his supporters and were even called racial insults and slurs such as ‘Oriental,”’ Chun said.
“Once we were pushed out of the gymnasium doors into the hallway, all I saw was KDL’s anti-Blackness manifest into physical violence yet again as he assaulted Jason for the second time this year,” Chun said. “They then physically threw us outside and we all left promptly afterward.”
Henry Perez, associate director of Inner City Struggle, a social justice non-profit organization in CD-14, called the incident “unfortunate and a new low for our council district.” Perez said they do not condone violence of any sort from protesters or elected representatives but that the community of CD-14, where the event was held, should not have to witness their council member lose self-control.
“Elected officials, especially, have a responsibility to conduct themselves in a composed manner. What we saw on that video shows us that de Leon does not have that ability to act responsibly and that his continued reluctance to listen to the calls for him to take accountability and resign for his actions in that recorded meeting, has created an untenable situation both in City Hall and in his own council district,” Perez told CALÓ NEWS. “By putting his ego first, he is putting his own constituents at risk.“
Chun also said that last week’s assault was just one of many incidents in which de León has escalated violence against the organization. “He and the CD14 staff have a long and documented history of lashing out at and lying about the activists and community members who hold him accountable,” Chun said. “This most recent spin, complete with absurd, desperate claims of “pelvic thrusts” and “headbutts” just re-confirms that de León and his staff will say or do anything to cling onto power.”
Pete Brown, de León’s communication director, told City News Service that de León “absolutely” intends to be at today’s council meeting, scheduled to officially seat new council members elected last month and also vote on a new council president. “No council member should be intimidated or threatened not to show up and be able to do their job,” Brown told City News Service.
Despite De León’s claims that he acted in self-defense, Shakeer Rahman, Reedy’s attorney, told CNN that the councilman initiated the assault.
“Video footage clearly shows him and his supporters initiating this assault while Mr. Reedy stands with his hands up,” Rahman said. “Not only has de León lost all political legitimacy, his claims that he was the one attacked here simply underscores how he’s lost touch with reality.”
Kenneth Mejia, LA’s newly elected city controller, also condemned de León for last week’s incident.
“KDL continues to disgrace our city with every second that he remains in office,” Mejia tweeted Friday night. “First he gets caught making racist remarks, now he’s assaulting a Black protestor. Tonight underscores what the community has already known: KDL and his policies endanger Black lives. Resign KDL!”
The Los Angeles Police Department stated that both Reedy and de León have both filed and completed battery reports. The Detective Support and Vice Division’s Threat Management Unit will continue to investigate the incident.
For community organizations, the demand to resign does not stop. “The video speaks for itself and reaffirms what we’ve known for years. Kevin needs to resign immediately and never show his unhinged racist face in public ever again,” Chun said.
For Perez, it is also important to acknowledge that the calls and protests for him to resign are not coming solely from groups outside of his district, something that according to Perez, de León has falsely portrayed before. “Dozens of groups from his own district have signed a public letter asking him to resign and have led several actions demanding that he resign. And we will continue doing so because we know that CD-14 deserves better and he is demonstrating over and over that he is unfit to continue representing our communities,” Perez said.
Reedy said that the protests at the City Council meetings have been effective in putting pressure on elected leaders like de León. “We are the only reason de León hasn’t returned to City Council meetings. If it weren’t for the protests, the same politicians who demanded his resignation would have moved on. People in power will never like the protests they face,” Reedy told the New York Times.
As reported by Los Angeles Magazine, each council member earns approximately $225,000 per year, not counting their pension and other benefits. For Emilio Zapien, director of media and communications for Youth Justice Coalition, a social justice organization in South Central, this money can be better spent.
“For almost 20 years the Youth Justice Coalition has been organizing to end gang injunctions, the war on youth, LAPD violence, school pushout, criminalization of youth, surveillance of youth, and anti-Black policies. We need instead real Investment in Youth Development, housing, youth jobs, and community-based intervention programs,” Zapien told CALÓ NEWS. “As a youth, family and community-centered organization the Youth Justice Coalition urges de León to resign, now.“